Institute of Archaeology


S. Conner Welty

  A Morphometric Analysis of Down Syndrome for Application on Human Skeletal Remains




Email: s.welty.17@ucl.ac.uk

Section: Archaeological Sciences



Down’s syndrome (DS) was first described in the clinical literature in 1866 by J.L. Down. Currently, the prevalence of Down’s syndrome ranges from 1:1000 to 1:600 births, depending on the location. In the UK there are an estimated 40,000 individuals living with DS presently. DS is the most frequently occurring chromosomal disorder, yet there is little archaeological evidence of the syndrome. In the current literature there are few suspected cases of subadult DS from archaeological material, with just once confirmed by genetic analysis. Before the advent of modern medical treatment for individuals with DS, life expectancy was low; in 1929, the reported life expectancy was 9 years. Given its high modern prevalence, it is likely that individuals with the condition in archaeological collections are overlooked, especially given the likelihood of a young age at death in the past. There is currently no applicable or unifying method in archaeology to identify DS other than genetic analysis, which is costly and not always available. To better understand disability in the past, it is necessary to identify the remains of those individuals affected in more transferable and cost-efficient methods. Previous research has worked with single features in the skull including the palate, nasal bone, and maxilla. This project proposes using modern cranial CT data and 3D Geometric Morphometrics to examine the entire skull with increasing age. If substantial differences are seen using the CT data, this information may be useful in identifying previously unknown cases of DS in archaeological collections by applying the same methods. The researcher hopes to provide a foundation to better understand disability in the archaeological record, which may only be possible by understanding the morphology of the condition in modern cases.


    • BA, Anthropology, Lehigh University, 2016

    • MSc, Bioarchaeological and Forensic Anthropology, UCL, 2018


    Welty, S. C. 2018. Post hoc spatial analysis of cemetery sites based on digital data from commercial companies: an examination of the spatial data from St. Michael’s Litten in Chichester, West Sussex. Digital Dilemma. Conference Presentation, University College London, 6 October.